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  • Writer's pictureTony Richards

Follow The Leader

There’s an old children’s game called “follow the leader” that goes something like this: first, a leader is chosen, then everyone else lines up behind the leader. The leader then moves around and all the children have to mimic the leader’s actions. Any players who mess up or do not do what the leader does are out of the game.The last person standing other than the leader is now the new leader.

This same paradigm goes on all the time in business as well as in kid’s games.

Someone establishes themselves as the leader in a marketplace category, everyone lines up behind them and tries to mimic what they do, afraid if they do not, they will be eliminated from the game or category. A person I was talking to the other day said “if everyone is over there and I’m over here, I figure they know something I don’t and I’m wrong somewhere.”

Actually, the opposite is true.

If everyone else in your category is “over there”, then you are in a unique position.

Of course, there are no absolutes and there are nuances to every situation, but it’s amazing how many people try to just mimic the leader.

As my Partner says, “you will never out-Wal-mart, Wal-mart.”

Now, those are words of wisdom. Who can take on Wal-Mart head to head? No one, you have to find another way. Another unique way.

If someone in your product category is on television yelling at the buyer that they have something for $1.50. It’s amazing how many counter-strategies are to go on television and yell that you have it for $1.35. You can’t out Wal-Mart, Wal-Mart. Someone will in fact be the cheapest the most amount of time and will yell it the loudest on television. There can only be one who can do this. In order to make headway, everyone else should be trying something else. Namely, a brand strategy that solidifies another position rather than the leader. It’s a different game than “follow the leader”.

If you can’t win the game, change games. Sounds simple, right? Not many do it.

Some ways you might change the game:

  1. What rules has the game always been played by that you can change?

  2. What rules has the game never had that you can create?

  3. What standards in the game can you raise well above what has always been considered standard?

  4. What standards in the game can you completely eliminate that have been taken for granted?

Creating a new value game, based on something other than the low-cost provider might give you something to talk (not yell) about.

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